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March 24, 2017

Why You Should Be Excited About the Housing Market

What an amazing year 2015 was for home sellers, and 2016 promises to be even better. By December of 2015, with 5.26 million sales, we had seen a more robust housing market than we've seen since 2006. In fact, as of early 2016, America's housing market had spent 43 consecutive months as a seller's market. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) chief economist chalks up the heavy sales volume to "the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather."

Get Very Excited if You Plan to Sell Your Home This Year

The combination of high demand for homes and shrinking inventories produces a seller's market and typically signals rising home prices. While many forecasters expect home prices to continue rising this year, they caution that they won't climb as quickly or as much as they did last year. "The NAR is calling for a 4.4 percent increase in existing home prices this year and 3.4 percent in 2017; other economists and strategists also put 2016 price growth in the 4 percent to 5 percent range," claims NAR's Adam DeSanctis.

In addition, inventories of available homes rose slightly last month. Whether or not this signals a trend toward a more balanced housing market remains to be seen. So, yes - although it sounds trite - the best time to sell your home is right now, while inventory is still low. If you will be selling a home priced in the low-to-middle price tier for your market, expect it to go quickly and for top dollar. You will have little competition and the demand in this price range is strong, according to Shu Chen of CoreLogic.

While this type of market makes it easy for home sellers to become complacent, if you expect to get top dollar for your home and want it to sell quickly, do the work required to ensure that it's in move-in condition.

Buying a Home This Year?

While it may seem like there isn't a whole lot for homebuyers to get excited about this year, there is one bonus for you: low interest rates. In fact, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, 30-year mortgage rates fell in April 2016 to an average of 3.59 percent across the country, down from 3.65 percent the same time last year.

Combine the low rates with more relaxed lending guidelines and there is definitely good news for the 2016 homebuyer. Lower mortgage rates mean a lower monthly payment, which means you have more purchasing power, and that additional power can "mean the difference between buying a 2-bedroom home versus a 3-bedroom one; between buying a home with large closets versus small closets; and, between buying an upgraded home versus a dated one," according to Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports.

Another reason to get excited: It appears that those deep-pocketed investors who pay all cash for homes have left the market. Last year, 33.9 percent of all home sales were to cash buyers, the lowest rate since 2008, according to Molly Boesel with CoreLogic. While there is still plenty of competition out there from other homebuyers for homes in good locations and in decent condition, the playing field is a bit more level.

Yes, there is still a lot of competition from other homebuyers. This makes it more important than ever to have all your ducks in a row before making an offer on a property. Ensure you know exactly how much you can spend and that you've obtained a preapproval letter from your lender. Make your offer stand out from the others by keeping it lean and mean, with the shortest time periods for contingencies as possible. While we're still in a seller's market, come in with your highest and best offer. The market moves too quickly right now to assume the seller will negotiate over price.

Finally, if you've been sitting on the fence waiting for prices to come down, jump off. Home prices are currently rising twice as quickly as incomes, and it doesn't appear the situation will change in the near future.

March 24, 2017

How to Increase Your Home's Value

Project (average cost recouped, national) according to Realtor Magazine:

  • Minor kitchen remodel (88%) - paint or recover kitchen cabinets, replace faucets, upgrade appliances
  • Bathroom remodel (85%)
  • Major kitchen remodel (81%) - completely replace and cabinets, tiling, counters, appliances, etc..
  • Family room addition (80%)
  • Patio addition (77%) - whether screened or open, having a covered outside area is much appreciated!
  • Master suite (75%)
  • Siding replacement (73%)
  • Window replacement (69%)
  • Home office (55%) - in home or detached.
  • Projects that may increase your home’s value include: Jacuzzi (4 jets or more); permanent hot tub; in-ground pool; security system; sprinkler system; substantial out buildings; and vaulted ceilings. While the following  may not add value to your house, the will add selling appeal for buyers so you get the best price: above-ground pool; ceiling fans; garden pond; and light fixtures.
  • Remodel with mass appeal in mind.  You do not want to remodel using your personal preferences but rather in a manner that allows for buyers flexibility to make it their own. 
  • Use durable, quality materials.
  • Keep the value of your property within 15 to 20 percent of your neighbors’. No matter how much upgrading you do, if you go too far above, your home will not necessarily increase in market value.
Posted in Selling Points
May 12, 2016

Down Payment Assistance

After the market crash, it has been increasingly difficult to get a loan. One of the reasons for that isn't just due to good or bad credit, but getting that 20-25% down necessary to secure a loan.  There are many programs out there that offer down payment assistance for many homeowners.  California Realtors® Association and myself feel it is very important to make sure homeowners are aware of these programs.  Below you will find a link for you to see if you qualify for this assistance.

Link for Down Payment Assistance Eligibility

 

Jan. 7, 2016

Show time! Tips for staging your home


 

                                      

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Posted in Selling Points
Jan. 7, 2016

First Impressions of Curb appeal

     


 

 I would recommend doing this while looking for a listing agent because the listing agent will need to take pictures as soon as possible in order to place it on the multiple listing service(MLS). Plus, if you can impress the agent – you can definitely impress the buyer!

Posted in Selling Points
Jan. 7, 2016

" Going Once, Going Twice!" Setting the Sales Price

 

Reaching a decision regarding what to sell a home for can be a very sensitive issue. For some sellers it is an emotional issue of placing a value on all the years they have lived there and raised their family. For others, its about comparing what they purchased the home for and how much more they invested into it with repairs,maintenance and upgrades over the years. Then there is the seller that in order to upgrade to a new home, they need to net a certain amount of money out of the home beyond what they still owe on the mortgage and closing costs. The list of various circumstances can be quite long. Therefore the first step in pricing a home is for the seller to recognize what is it they are hoping for out of selling their home and what their needs are.

1. Are you pricing your home based on its emotional value to you? Memories are priceless. They cannot be bought and therefore you are not selling your memories with your home. Memories go with you - for free. If you have a strong emotional attachment to your home then the logical process of pricing your home per current market conditions can be very difficult. Finding an agent sympathetic to your process can aid you in understanding that but it can take time on both sides and feelings can get hurt that "no one else sees your home's value". Buyers are only looking at your house/condo/ in how structurally and aesthetically it can accommodate their lifestyle so they can create their own memories there.

2. Did you buy your home about 5 years ago and now need to upgrade to a bigger home? In those cases, there usually is still a mortgage which needs to be paid off at closing so understandably, your home needs to be sold at a price that satisfies that as well as the other closing cost.

3)  If you still owe a lot on your loan and the home has lost equity, then a short sale may be needed. A short sale is when a bank allows a home to be sold at current market value even if it was originally purchased at a higher market price. Originally, short sales were only permitted if the owner met certain life circumstances making it impossible to make the loan payments and therefore, selling the home was the most viable option. That has changed and now homes can be sold as short sales if the equity in your home is below current market value. It is a little more complicated of a transaction and is best performed by an agent with experience in short sales. For the sake of this blog, lets pretend that you still have equity in your home and therefore can sell it at an amount that will pay off the loan:  

  • Any repairs, maintenance or upgrades may or may not add to the value of the home. Repairs and maintenance are pretty much expected expenses of owning a home and what insures that your home will sell at the highest market value. Keeping up on maintenance and repairs on the plumbing, roofing, electrical, repairing drywall damage, etc… does help your home hold its value and a buyer will see it has "good bones" and be willing to pay for that.
  • Permitted upgrades definitely add extra value to your home but not necessarily enough to offset your initial expenses in addition to the loan. Houses are similar to technology. When you buy a computer, you know that in about 2 - 5 years, that technology will be outdated and you will need to either upgrade features in your current computer or buy a new one. Houses are similar. Upgrades you made 5 - 10 years ago based on trends at that time may not satisfy current trends and therefore its value will have a decreased. 

There are various methods which can be used to sell your home at the highest possible price and all methods should be discussed with your agent.

1. Pricing a home above market value. This method is the stereotypical way of pricing a home and one which many sellers, and agents, still adhere to.  Basically, a home is priced far above market value thinking that it will make buyers believe that this home must be far better than any other home otherwise why would it be so expensive. It's like shopping for anything else - the theory of quality. If you see a certain brand item that you know goes for $300 at Macey's Department store but is selling for $100 at Sears, the usual assumption is that the product at Sears is of lesser quality. That is the psychological game used in pricing a home high.

The Pros of listing high:

  •          The House may sell at a higher price allowing the seller to Net more profit
  •          It allows a Seller who is not in a hurry to move, to keep it on the market longer and gradually decrease the price as the time becomes more crucial.

The Cons of Listing high:

  •  As the house sits on the market longer, the price continues to get lowered but now the mentality of the buyers is "What is wrong with that house that they keep lowering the price"?
  • "Well they have lowered it so much, lets wait and see how much more they will lower it". Bottom line - there is no sense of urgency for a buyer to place an offer on the house and they will look around  at other properties. At the end of the day, the house may have sat on the market longer and still ended up selling for much closer to market value or even lower.

Buyers are much more informed now then they were 10 years ago. They are able to search the internet and get comps from their agent to assess what the values are. Also, after the market crash, they are much more hesitant to purchase a home that may not hold its equity.

2. Pricing a home below market value. This method is actually newer and is used most commonly in an investment property or a property that has potential but will need work.

The Pros of Listing Low:

  • By pricing a home such as this very low, you attract the attention of investors or do-it-yourselfers, to create the competitive market themselves. A multiple offer situation where the owner is able to counter several different offers at once and increasing the price each time with better terms. Depending upon the market, this is a very successful strategy. In 2013, many homes were priced low and sold for over $50,000 above market value in cash with no repairs or termite required by the owner.
  • Can result in a quick sale

The Cons of Listing Low:

  •  It is best effective with certain homes and with an abundance of investors in a sellers market.
  • Generally, a smaller net profit

3. Pricing a home at or close to market value. Currently this is the best method to sell your typical home.

The Pros of Listing at or Close to Market:

  • You can still price your home $10-20,000 above the market(higher if it is a million dollar or more home) and not entirely discourage buyers from making an offer. It may still sell at actual market price but there is still a certain logic in pricing it slightly higher. It is almost routine for a buyer to never offer full price for a home unless it is an obvious value. Therefore the slightly above market allows for that cushion of negotiation. Also,
  • If the home then decreases its price in 2 weeks, no real red flags go off to buyers and chances are, offers will start coming in.
  • Should sell within an expected normal amount of time

The Cons of Listing at or Close to Market:

  • Market can change during the listing time and then the price must reflect the change.  If it is a downturn, it may turn lower than the seller is comfortable with.
  • The seller and the agent must be fully aware of all of the issues which may decrease the value of the home to a buyer.

How does this differ from pricing above market value? The amount. Usually if a house is priced above market value, its priced $25,000 or more above. If the value isn't there, then its a long road down. By pricing a home only slightly above and then decreased within 2 weeks or a month, it isn't sitting as long and the road down to market value is shorter resulting in a quicker sale.

While getting the most money out of your home is a priority, the time frame is usually a concern as well. Knowing where to price your home to accommodate both issues is a trial and error. The market can change very quickly and unpredictably and it takes little to dissuade a buyer from purchasing one home over another. That is why its very important to find an agent that can best represent your needs while informing you so you can understand how real estate has changed in the last 5 years…and is still changing.

Posted in Selling Points
Jan. 7, 2016

Seller Says

       You’ve decided to sell your house and now there are some things you need to consider and talk over with your listing agent.  This is the time for "Seller says...".  Seller's have many rights in making decisions regarding listing their homes.  Its the agent's job to make the seller aware of what the options are and what their plan is. Its the seller's job to either agree or let their preferences be known.

 During the listing presentation, marketing of your home should be discussed. Marketing can include everything from as simple as posting a sign in your front yard and open houses to websites with photos or video, social networking, mailings, newspaper ads and e-mail marketing. All that said - you still gets  a say in how you want your home advertised. Your agent will advise you as to the methods they most commonly utilize and what they suggest to attract the most sincere buyers and sell your home the fastest.

Some of the things that you as the seller really have a say in is:

  • The actual sales price of the home
  • whether or not to have a sign in front of your home
  • if or when to do an open house or a Broker's open
  • if you want your home listed on the MLS (multiple listing service) if to allow open access through a lock box or by appointment only

There are pros and cons related to all of these and they can be discussed further with your agent to coincide with your needs.  Some of the overall points are below.

 

      1.   In addition to the marketing is setting the sale price. This is the biggest "Seller says..."  point.  It is completely your decision. Your agent can provide you the facts regarding what homes similar to yours in size and condition in your area have actually sold at within a certain time frame. Your agent truly is usually your best resource for the true market value of your home.  Not only do they know what the homes in your area actually sold for, not just listed at, they most likely have seen the interior of those homes and know how your property compares in updates, overall condition and what buyers are looking for in today's market.  

          You can also do your own research on the market value of your home to educate yourself.  Market value reports            are usually free on the internet or your agent can easily provide you with one. Do keep in mind that some of the internet estimates may use comparables that may actually increase or decrease the value of your home. Additionally, while un-permitted changes cannot be listed on the MLS in the property detail, i.e. – an unpermitted bedroom or bath, it may still add value to your home that the bank will include in their assessment. Flip side of that though, is that the bank may not allow a buyer to get a loan either. All depends upon the lender and if the changes were done in a "workman-like manner."  Your agent can take that into consideration when evaluating the market value of your home. 

         Coinciding with the market value of your home is the “absorption rate”. Absorption rate is the number of months it takes to sell a house at the present rate of sales. – specific to your general area – i.e. the county in which you live. This will give you an approximate time frame in which you can expect to sell your home.  This is  particularly important for anyone who needs to sell quickly.  

      2.   Lock box, Supra box or appointment only showings?  Strangers are going to be in your home. That can be difficult to deal with, especially if you are still living in it.  This is another important "Seller says...." point.  You may have concerns about security, about it being accessible for potential buyers, about your privacy, etc..  

    What is the difference between a lock box and a Supra box?  A lock box is large padlock with a container that holds the key to your property.  By using a lock box, every agent must contact the listing agent in order to get the code.  A Supra box is a specialized style of lock box that allows any agent from the area to use a special "remote" that we have to unlock the container.  Every agent with this "remote" - called a Supra Key, has a special code just for them.  Because the Supra Key is specific to each agent, the listing agent knows precisely what time and who was in your home.  This allows for your listing agent to contact them for follow up as well as provides a bit of security in that we know precisely when an agent was at your property.

   As for choosing to do by appointment only,  there is a limitation in that an agent cannot just randomly view your home if they are out with their clients.  Sometimes agents or buyers are discouraged from viewing your home became a set time must be set.  The real down side is more toward the agent who must fit a mutually convenient time with the Buyer and their agent. Common courtesy of informing the listing agent that the schedule cannot be kept is not always honored therefore wasting the agent's time which could've been spent on other marketing.  It is a very time consuming method.  The largest advantage is that your agent is always with anyone who comes into your home and can upsell your property in the best way and usually get instant feedback.   

You need to discuss any concerns with your agent and develop the plan that you are best comfortable with.

Most people seem to think that the agent is the one who calls the shots.  In truth, what the "Seller says.." is the seller's rights.  It is a choice of what they want the agent to do.  It is their right.  However, it is essential for the best sale of your home to remember that an agent was hired for their expertise and should be consulted and listened to when making the final decision.

Posted in Selling Points
Jan. 7, 2016

My Home is "Priceless"

   Generally speaking, the first issue which will be discussed with your agent when preparing to list your home is price – “How much can I get for my home?”

You have most likely paid attention to how much your neighbor’s home sold for or is listed for and compared your stats on various “market” sites but the bottom line is that each home is different.

  • The first stats that are looked at of course is the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage of the home and square footage of the lot. An agent will pull this from your property description off of the Title because usually what is on Title is the stats which are permitted. This is the baseline.
  • From here, the price is adjusted either up or down based on viewing the home and seeing its general condition, how updated it is structurally and aesthetically, and any additions which may not be reflected on the Title. As mentioned in a previous article, while unpermitted changes can add to the listing price, the amount will vary depending upon how well it was constructed and if the agent feels the bank will assess the property based on these changes or not. If a bank does not assess a property at the accepted price, the buyer will not be able to get the full amount of the loan.

What are some of the items which can either add or detract from the listing price or appeal to buyers – other than the overall condition of the structure and roof.

     1) Outdated plumbing and electricity. Current expectations is that all or most of the plumbing has been converted to copper and that the electrical box can handle the increased work load for the multitude of electrical devises currently used without tripping a switch.

     2) Do the ceilings still have the old 1970’s popcorn containing asbestos or have they been scraped clean? Is the drywall throughout the house smooth and well painted?

     3) Have most or all of the windows been updated to dual pane vinyl windows or are they still the old single pane metal windows?

    4) Unless you have original, good condition hardwood floors under that carpet – carpet is be used minimally. Tile and various renditions of “hardwood” flooring – whether it is laminate, engineered or real, is what is most wanted.

    5) How updated is the kitchen and the bathrooms? Cleanliness is a definite must! If you are still sporting the old tile in the kitchen – that grout had best be clean. Same in the bathrooms. Generally, buyers are most interested in modern kitchen and bathrooms but may be tolerant of the late 80’s but it will detract from being able to raise your listing price much from the baseline.

   6) A big item which has been debated as to if it adds value to your overall property – is a pool. Some say it does not add value or any significant value. I would differ on this but it does depend upon different factors:

               a.) Size, style and condition of the pool

               b.) Does it include a spa/Jacuzzi?

               c.) Is there a waterfall?

               d.) Beauty and condition of the hardscape surrounding it

               e.) Is there actually a beautifully landscape yard in addition?

               f.) Can you entertain around it?

In looking at all these factors, a pool has been shown to add $10,000-$50,000 to your property value.

There are other factors which can effect the listing price, but the aforementioned are at least the basics currently(2014).

As you can see, determining the value of a home is more than just stats which is why it is important that an agent see the property to assess its actual value. After viewing the property, they can then compare your property to other recently sold properties in your area and consider market conditions to come up with a range which your home should fall into.

Posted in Selling Points